It’s been eight months since Donald Trump left office, and that means it’s also been eight months since we’ve been subjected to some of the ultra-embarrassing pieces of what I’d call “Trump resistance art.” You know what I’m talking about: the pop culture equivalents of the “We Love the FBI!” tweets; the songs and shows and books and everything else whose deadly earnestness was only matched by their insistence that the United States wasn’t really a country capable of electing someone like Trump, but was in fact better, and smarter, and kinder to marginalized people. (Wrong!)
Though Trump is gone (from office if not from his terrible influence over the country) these cultural artifacts remain, symbols of some of the cringiest parts of living through the Trump era. Below are 13 pieces of music made or recorded during the Trump era that are surely among the most wildly misguided pieces of anti-Trump art that ever existed.
“Amnesty Don” by Joe Scarborough, August 2016
One of the earlier anti-Trump anthems came from the Morning Joe himself, and boy is it a doozy. It has all the greatest hits: Trump is flaccid, Trump is orange, etc. etc. It’s written in some strange Johnny Cash country music style, so you know it’s got the integrity of real American flyover country. It’s also written from the perspective of someone who is mad because Trump is going back on his promises to ban Muslims, which, OK! Really feels like listening to the Rosetta Stone of anti-Trump music, doesn’t it?
“Million Dollar Loan” by Death Cab for Cutie, October 2016
From a great height
He’s looking down on his city at night
From gilded room
Of gold, marble, and soft perfume
And he’s proud to say
He built his fortune the old fashioned way
Because to succeed
There’s only one thing you really need
A million dollar loan
I will admit to being someone who saw this song and music video for the first time and thought to myself, “Wow, this is kind of catchy!” And also, since hearing this song, it seems to haunt me at least twice a year, just kind of bobbing in and out of my consciousness: “Remember the time Death Cab for Cutie wrote a song about Trump being loaned a million dollars and that’s why he’s a sham?” It’s a real “emperor has no clothes” style song that sounds like it could just be another track off of Narrow Stairs.
The really weird thing about this song is that it was the first song to kick off an anti-Trump music project called “30 days, 30 songs” and then later “30 days, 50 songs,” then even more later “1,000 days, 1,000 songs.” You get the concept, but all of it was launched in the name of voting against Trump, and then became a #resistance project when Trump won. It looks like the project fizzled out a few months after it began, but includes a few other honorable mentions from Franz Ferdinand, Moby, Jimmy Eat World, and Cold War Kids, lol.
Really, I could write a whole blog alone on that project alone, because what the fuck, but I’ll let you do the astonished digging yourself, dear reader.
“Seriously” by Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom, Jr. on This American Life, October 2016
Rewriting the book on bad behavior
Maybe cheats the neighbors
Feels he gets what they pay for
Pat him on the back and send him on through
No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue
Is this the best we can be?
Of course this is the kind of project that would come from This American Life, the same production that brought us a fictional dramatic re-enactment of Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton talking about the email fallout of the Anthony Weiner investigation.
“Walk on Water” by 30 Seconds to Mars, August 2017
Look at the sky, see a dying star
A white lie, sets a man on fire
Making love with the devil hurts
Times are changing
A thin line, the whole truth
The far right, the left view
Breaking all those promises made
Times are changing
Do you believe that you can walk on water?
Do you believe that you can win this fight tonight?
Jared Leto’s statement for this song reads, “‘Walk On Water’ is a song for all of us. It’s a song about freedom, about persistence, about change and about fighting for what you believe in. It is a call to arms but also full of all the optimism and hope that is such an integral part of the American Dream.”
This song, and the whole album America, is the purest encapsulation of music that earnestly, disingenuously insists that the United States is not a country defined by its president. Which, it’s not, we know this, but the song and the album both go above and beyond to refute the idea that the U.S. is a racist, xenophobic nation that continues to be defined by its racism and xenophobia.
The whole premise is not just corny, but wrong. It seeks to make Leto and his band comfortable with this division by pretending that another more authentic America exists that doesn’t make them uncomfortable to confront, because it doesn’t need confronting, just “discovering.”
“Dear Mr. President (cover)” by Tracie Thoms and Friends, September 2017
In this cover of Pink’s “Dear Mr. President,” Tracie Thoms and others put their heart and soul into it. Unfortunately for me, despite how beautiful of a five-part harmony this is, it kind of feels like the “zero tolerance family separation” version of that celebrity “Imagine” pandemic video. Maybe I’m just unfeeling a. nd jaded! Who is to say.
The Storm (BET Hip Hop Awards Freestyle Cypher) by Eminem, October 2017
That’s an awfully hot coffee pot
Should I drop it on Donald Trump? Probably not
But that’s all I got ’til I come up with a solid […]
Trump, when it comes to givin’ a shit, you’re stingy as I am
Except when it comes to havin’ the balls to go against me, you hide ’em
‘Cause you don’t got the fuckin’ nuts like an empty asylum
Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for
‘Cause that’s how he gets his fuckin’ rocks off and he’s orange
Yeah, sick tan
Eminem’s freestyle diatribe about the president is probably one of the most memorable to those of us with internet brain poisoning. There is, indeed, much to enjoy about this piece of work, from Eminem’s opening (may the phrase “awfully hot coffee pot” be banished from the English language), to his use of tried and true digs for taking down the president (Trump is orange, have you heard?).
His freestyle is much less earnest than other pieces of music on this list, mostly sticking to pointing out the problems with Trump and America. But we do get a nice grand “this isn’t who we are” statement at the end of the freestyle: “The rest of America, stand up. We love our military and we love our country, but we fucking hate Trump!”
“Desperate Cheeto” by Randy Rainbow, October 2017
How could we have chosen such a mental case
Every day you devastate the human race
America, good luck, goodbye and sayonara
I mean no disrespect but you’re a big disgrace
And what is all that orange stuff that’s on your face
Maybe you should finally just admit you are a
There are a million song parodies about Trump, all including variations of jokes about his skin tone. Despite this I somehow get the feeling that calling him a “cheeto” will still be enough to earn comedians at least a semi-respectable reputation as a member of the “resistance” for years to come.
“Love It If We Made It” by The 1975, July 2018
We’re fucking in a car, shooting heroin
Saying controversial things just for the hell of it
Selling melanin and then suffocate the black men
Start with misdemeanours and we’ll make a business out of them […]
“I moved on her like a bitch!”
Excited to be indicted
Unrequited house with seven pools
“Thank you Kanye, very cool!”
OK. This is actually a really fun-sounding song before you look up the lyrics — specifically the artist-verified Genius annotations explaining why he’s singing about drowning three-year-olds before evoking the death of Lil Peep — and think to yourself, “What the fuck is going on here?” Which I guess is the point! But also you can’t just mash a bunch of semi-related topics and fairly claim it to be a commentary on anything, or even protest art.
Matthew Healy captures the “what the fuck”ed ness of Trump’s America, and tries to say something smart about it, but at most alludes to the false idea that things are bad only now, and aren’t we all exhausted by it? I get the feeling he wanted to write something like “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and then just landed on something closer to the “This is Fine” meme in song form.
“Batuka” by Madonna, July 2019
I was up all night
I said a little prayer
Get that old man
Put him in a jail […]
But when we can stop it all (but when we can stop it all)
In the right way (in the right way)
Will we stand together? (Will we stand together?)
It’s a new day (it’s a new day)
So don’t judge a human (so don’t judge a human)
‘Til you’re in their shoes (’til you’re in their shoes)
If you have a dream (if you have a dream)
Then you can’t stop us (then you can’t stop us)
I will leave you again, dear reader, to make up your own judgments about the above work of music, if only because I think it’s obvious enough, so I will keep it brief: Madonna sings vaguely about feminism and overcoming and putting Trump in jail (but also not judging someone if you’re not in their shoes?) with the accompaniment of the Batukadeiras Orchestra, an all-women drummer collective from Cape Verde.
“45 (A Matter Of Time)” by Sum 41, July 2019
So tell me is this what the future primitive world’s supposed to be?
A total abomination is what it looks like to me
No reasonable explanation, can’t call it a declaration
A bigot to all, sick of it all, can we all stand up? Go!
I believe that I
Am losing faith in all of humankind
But then I realize it’s plain to see
That a number is all you are to me
Sum 41 managed to write a Linkin Park song about a cartoon president in 2019 and still get two million views on the music video. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the thirst for an anti-Trump rock anthem was still just as strong nearly three years after his election, but it’s still overall a B+ endeavor. Again, what really tips it over for me is the video — it’s exactly like that Black Mirror episode about Boris Johnson (which people later compared to Trump’s election). Fine effort, however.
Trump’s Impeachment Hearing Notes as sung by Morrissey, by Patton Oswalt and Ben Ash, November 2019
Yes, it’s another song parody, but it’s only on the list because you know Patton Oswalt thought he was really sticking it to Trump when he tweeted out these lyrics, even if it does sound slightly funny when turned into actual music.
“Where the Poison Is” by Finneas, November 2020
When all my friends get sick, it’s on the President
When all my friends get sick, it’s on his government
Take me to the place where the poison is
To put a face to what’s poisonous
To give him a little taste of his medicine
There’s a snake that thinks it’s the President
Much like “Love It If We Made It,” this song has a lot going on. While it’s obviously an allusion to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve also got lines about Trump being a snake who thinks he’s the president, and then people not knowing he, the emperor, isn’t wearing clothes, and that also the country suffers from mass shootings and climate change.
It’s not the worst of the songs on this list, but it surely belongs for being a piece of music that once again, wants to say something about Trump. Yes, it manages to get a few points out — this government is killing us, my god! — but it still suffers from wanting to be a protest anthem while having little else to say.
“Trump’s Over Freestyle” by Macklemore, January 2021
It’s like Trump is just a symptom that we ain’t free from
Just old white supremacy that he would feed us
We celebrating, but to think a new era’s begun
Still half the country feels the same way that he does, so
What the fuck are we gonna do now?
Biden my dawg, but he’s close to getting put down
Surprise, another old white guy in the house
Who’s fine, we just hold our breath when he opens his mouth
I guess I just have to laugh at this one because it’s another protest freestyle by a popular (?) white rapper. This time, Macklemore, somehow above Eminem, is able to critique the U.S. beyond making Trump the kingpin for its sins, and then goes on to say that Biden is “close to getting put down”! Lol, what! Like I get it but what a bold metaphor. Maybe I’m just including it as a palate cleanser to all the music that just came before it, or maybe I’m including because it’s performed by, of all people, Macklemore.